Where we’re at with the 3 most promising types of male birth control
Men have long begged for a method of birth control that they can be in charge of. Currently, their short-term options are less than ideal — they can take their pick between dick-strangling condoms and the “pull and pray” technique. When these aren’t safe enough, they can desperately turn to permanent solutions like vasectomies as early as age 18.
For years, fellas have been promised that a new male contraceptive is just around the corner. First, there was the male birth control injection, which was halted when men couldn’t handle the same side effects that women do. Then, there was the most recent hype about successful tests for a sperm-reducing pill. All these promises, and still nothing behind the pharmacy counter to calm men’s fears of accidental fatherhood.
However, there is room for hope in 3 male contraceptives that have been chugging along through clinical trials — a daily gel that stops sperm production, a male birth control pill, and a non surgical vasectomy.
THE DAILY GEL
For more than a decade, researchers have been pursuing an anti-baby jelly that can be absorbed through a man’s skin with minimal side effects. It’s called Nestorone/Testosterone, and of the 3 hopeful male contraceptives, it’s furthest along in its clinical trials.
The Nestorone half of the goo reduces sperm count by suppressing testosterone production in the balls. Ordinarily, this would also lower testosterone levels in the blood, leading to a lower sex drive, difficulty ejaculating, acne or weight gain. That’s where the Testosterone half of the goo comes in, to bump levels back up to where men can effortlessly shoot their splooge.
The next step for the gel comes this summer, with a trial of couples all over the world to test the effectiveness of the drug at preventing pregnancies.
THE MALE PILL
In surveys, men who want a reversible birth control say that they’d prefer a pill to injections or gels. But much like the Oregon Trail is a journey of endless oxen deaths and dysentery, the road to the male pill has also been abound with challenges.
First, drug developers had to eliminate liver inflammation caused by most available forms of testosterone. Then, the pills cleared the body too quickly, so unless researchers could slow the clearance, men would have had to take the pills twice a day.
Recently, researchers announced that they’d overcome both major hurdles. In a new study presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference, they revealed data that showed a male pill — called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU — could include an ingredient that slows down how quickly the drug leaves the system, and become a once-a-day contraceptive.
In a couple of weeks, a 3-month study will begin to determine if DMAU can be effective at preventing one-night-stands from turning into lifelong commitments.
THE NON SURGICAL VASECTOMY
Soon, vasectomies might no longer require getting the snip. A technique called RISUG, reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance, involves zero cutting and looks promising in animal studies.
Vasectomies normally involve slicing the vas deferens, the tiny tube that sperm travel through from the gonads to the urethra. Instead of cutting, RISUG involves injecting a polymer gel into the vas deferens to intercept men’s swimmers. The treatment can later be reversed with a shot that breaks down the gel.
RISUG has had successful trials in India, but the American equivalent, a product called Vasalgel, is far from hitting the market in the states. It’s much more likely for men to get access to the contraceptive pill and gel methods first.
In the next decade, the marketplace for male birth control will change drastically. There will be no more need to get a vasectomy before you can legally drink a beer. No more fear of women who are infected with “Baby Rabies,” and scheme to get themselves pregnant against your will. No more need for extra-tight tighty whities and scorching hot daily baths. Just myriad contraceptive choices and peace of mind.